Draft 2015: TCU Playmaker make sharpen Edge on Packers’ defense
From TYLER DUNNE of the Journal Sentinel
~Green Bay — In the still-stinging aftermath of the most heartbreaking loss in Green Bay Packers history, there is no room for diplomatic, tip-your-hat-to-them clichés. No. Players on this defense know they punished the smashmouth Seattle Seahawks…. for 56 minutes.
They picked off Russell Wilson four times. They stuffed running back Marshawn Lynch. They made undrafted receivers resemble undrafted receivers.
Ask defensive players about the 28-22 overtime loss and a palpable anger returns. At Liberty Café in downtown Green Bay over a cup of coffee with Sam Barrington.
“Whenever somebody mentions it,” Barrington said. “I get mad all over again. That’s fuel to the fire. That’s firewood right there. So next year, when we’re trying to rebuild this thing back up, we’ll just throw that into the mix and make the fire even bigger. We won’t forget that.”
In New Jersey, where B.J. Raji was training before signing his new contract. He was a spectator that day. It was the lowest low of his rehab from a torn bicep tendon.
“It was just a helpless state,” Raji said. “That last play of the NFC Championship Game was a helpless feeling. Standing there and there’s nothing I can do and a ‘we’re going home’-type of thing. That was probably the toughest.”
Defensive end Mike Daniels has been replaying the film.
“I’ve watched it quite a bit,” Daniels said. “You’ve got to learn from it. I know I can learn myself. I know I had a really stupid penalty and that’s something I never plan on doing again.”
So if you’re the Packers — armed with the 30th overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft — you do everything possible to sharpen this edge on ‘D.’ Maintain it. Strengthen it. There’s an ornery, irritable core of playmakers here in Daniels, Barrington, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, outside linebacker Mike Neal.
Add TCU’s Paul Dawson.
The Packers need an inside linebacker next to Barrington to let Clay Matthews do what he’s paid $13.2 million per year to do — bruise quarterbacks.
The Packers must nail this choice, too. After skating by at the position on low-cost deals, it’s time to invest a first-round pick.
UCLA’s Eric Kendricks is the instinctual tackling machine. Clemson’s Stephone Anthony, of 4.56 speed, could be a blitzing missile.
Dawson? He was as prepared for the NFL scouting combine as Brennan Huff and Dale Doback in their joint job interview in “Step Brothers.”
Dawson plodded through the events. Your local postal worker could probably top Dawson’s time of 4.93 (30th among linebackers) and 28-inch vertical leap. Position drills were clunky.
Then, you turn on the film. Dawson is a different breed inside.
Last season, the Big 12 defensive player of the year had 136 tackles (20 for loss), six sacks, four interceptions and two forced fumbles.
In a conference that spreads linebackers thin — how NFL coordinators scheme each game, a point of concern with Denzel Perryman and Benardrick McKinney — Dawson maintained a cruel, downhill playing style while holding his own in coverage.
The Horned Frogs’ 42-3 decimation of Ole Miss should replay in war rooms. Not the latest installment of men in tights.
He routinely shoots the right gap to stalemate Jaylen Walton (8 carries, 3 yards) at the line of scrimmage (as seen below).
He reads a play fake to the back to instantly race upfield and sack Bo Wallace at the Ole Miss 1-yard line. He then shakes off a lineman’s block to blitz and drill Wallace in the end zone on a pick-six.
Dropping the hammer, staring down at his victims, he made more plays in single games than many draftable linebackers did the entire season.
So of course Dawson took to Twitter (what else?) shortly after his combine dud.
“I’m an awesome football player,” Dawson tweeted, smoke likely emanating from his cell phone. “The best/most productive linebacker in this draft. Not a track Star.”
He then added a hashtag: “Meet me on the field.”
The Packers took a workout wonder before to play linebacker: Nick Perry. But even the team’s own scouts had to be concerned that Perry disappeared for stretches in college at USC — not the case with Dawson. He stands out every possession.
This prospect does require a deep background check.
Early in his career at TCU, Dawson would show up late for meetings. He was, basically, a bizarro A.J. Hawk. Tardy. Unfocused. By his senior year — having a daughter in the process — Dawson insists he corrected the problem.
“That’s my heart,” Dawson said. “She looks just like me. So when I see her, I see me, and I want the best thing for her.”
Before every draft pick, Packers general manager Ted Thompson asks the room how that player would fit into the locker room. Arrests, headaches, malcontents to any degree are rare in Green Bay.
Of course a player who is rough around the edges, who does come with that “character concern” tag could also be a welcomed addition. Dawson rides the fine line. He was the heartbeat of one of the nation’s top defenses.
“As a linebacker,” Dawson said, “you’ve got to be the leader. You’ve got to be the one pulling everybody along no matter how the game is going. So yeah, I was that emotional person just getting everybody going. I make plays and that just gets the whole team hyped up.”
The Packers’ defense was hyped up, and then some, the final two months of the 2014 season.
Now, management needs to keep it that way.
Original story HERE